Demise of the Cube Farm: Hagerty embraces the ‘Future of Work’

Hagerty is embracing the future of work one location at a time.

The specialty insurance provider is redesigning parts of its work spaces to be more collaborative, including comfy furniture and areas where small groups can gather.

The spaces getting refreshed include the Silverstone common area (see rendering) at Hagerty’s Cass Street headquarters and one floor each at its Union Street, Front Street and Golden, Colorado locations.

After site visits to Steelcase and Haworth, Inc., Hagerty tapped Zeeland, Mich.-based furniture maker Herman Miller, Inc. to design and furnish the spaces, called the “Future of Work.”

“All the companies that we researched and visited were impressive and would have helped us in our goal of keeping West Michigan prosperous,” said Sarah Friess, the company’s senior manager of employee programs. “Herman Miller was the best fit for Hagerty.”

Rather than a top-down approach, employee input weighed heavily in the layout and design, said Gretta Peterson, a workplace knowledge consultant at Herman Miller.

“We do an internal assessment, how it’s being used or why it is not being used,” she said. “It’s about the way the business functions.”

Peterson is working directly with Hagerty and with MarxModa, the project’s local designer and Herman Miller retailer.

The overarching goal of the new design is to hasten the pace of sharing ideas, making decisions and creating new products in a casual, collaborative way, like working in a coffee shop or a book store.

Herman Miller’s Living Office concept has helped steer the project, which, according to their website, “elevate[s] experience of work for people, and helps organizations achieve their strategic goals.” That may mean spontaneously gathering together or sometimes working alone.

“We are now just taking a look at how work is being done and providing spaces so they can work where they work best,” said Friess. “We are a for-profit business and being efficient is important.”

Implementing a Living Office includes employee surveys, both pre- and post-design, to gauge the acceptance and effectiveness of the new office model.

“Herman Miller is cognizant that change is tough,” Friess said.

The design is both altruistic and practical from the employer’s standpoint, said Peterson.

“It makes people feel they are part of the process,” she said. “The business is interested in changing to make people feel good about coming in to work.”

Friess said it’s hoped the spaces will encourage more offhand collaborative efforts.

“We want to give employees the spaces they need and not be so meetings-heavy, but have chance encounters,” she said. “We want to break down barriers.”

Friess emphasized that project is still in Phase I, or what she called “the learning phase.” She said the lessons learned will impact future construction and renovations, from small, informal lounge areas to larger rooms equipped with video conference technology and other collaboration tools.

The initial part of Phase I will start in January at the Silverstone common area. Following that, a build out will begin at the East Front Street offices next to the Chase Bank building, with future renovations slated at the company’s Union Street and Golden, Colo. offices.

The third partner in the project is the Detroit-based MarxModa, a design and retail firm with offices in Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Livonia, Lansing, and Pontiac. While Hagerty is the first in this area to embrace the Living Office concept, MarxModa and Herman Miller have also worked with Ford, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan and Ryder Logistics on creating Living Office environments in Michigan.
Rachel Gauthier and Barbara Church are working with Hagerty out of MarxModa’s Traverse City office. Church said the concept for Golden, Colo., will echo the Traverse City look.

“There’s continuity,” Church said. “It all looks similar.”

Friess said Hagerty’s Future of Work concept provides employees with the tools, technology and space to be able to work where and with whom their work dictates.

“If a project or initiative requires a cross-departmental team, there will be different types of spaces to allow for this collaboration,” she said. “[T]he Silverstone common area will provide enhanced shared space for all employees, and also will give employees a transitional space when [they are] between meetings.”

Friess said it is important for Hagerty’s continued growth for its technology, teams, habits and work spaces to foster collaboration and innovation.

Or, as MarxModa’s Gauthier put it, “A happy worker is a productive worker.”

The Silverstone project is projected to be completed in mid-February. Friess said the lessons learned there will inform the future projects.

“The evolution of work space at Hagerty will continue for years to come,” she said.


Hagerty Seeks Inspiration Wherever it Can

Several different sources influenced Hagerty’s initiative “The Future of Work,” from books and articles on workplace settings to trends espoused by business leaders to the furniture manufacturers the company consulted.

“This is not the first iteration of Hagerty trying to better accommodate employees,” said Sarah Friess, senior manager of company programs for the specialty insurance provider.

She said the concept is one of evolution rather than revolution.

“There was no big ‘aha!’ moment. We just try to support our people,” says Friess. “Hagerty is a business that is forward-looking.”

One inspiration was the book “Mastering the Rockefeller Habits,” by Verne Harnish. The book espouses using the leadership and management principles of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil, for companies that are growing quickly. Friess said Hagerty has long used the book as a framework for how its team members communicate, ensuring everyone is aligned around the company’s strategy and goals.

Another key consideration was allowing for casual collaboration as well as planned meetings. One component of that is a common space that enables conversation to occur naturally, as in Herman Miller’s the Living Office. She said the goal is to craft inviting workspaces that not only provide the most advantageous settings for getting work done, but provide opportunities for employees to relax, focus on their work, and encounter others for unplanned creative collaboration.

Friess said that is the culture of Hagerty and its Future of Work initiative, empowering individuals to choose where and how to work and utilizing technology to increase communication and collaboration.

“It wasn’t just one particular thing or book. It’s just trying to keep growing, using technology and (our) space,” she said.

And if someone comes across an innovative way of doing something that can be incorporated into Hagerty’s business practices, the company will try to determine how it can be utilized.

“This (strategy) makes sense, so how can we work it into our business? We’re always learning, always growing,” said Friess.